Cover Image: Filthy Animals

Filthy Animals

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Member Reviews

Thank you to NetGalley and Riverhead Books for the eARC of this terrific book of short stories. 

Filthy Animals, by Brandon Taylor, comes hot on the heels of Taylor’s debut novel, Real Life. Six of the eleven stories in Filthy Animals are linked by a triad consisting of Lionel, a black queer grad student who recently attempted suicide, Charles, a perhaps-pansexual dancer with a bad knee, and Sophie, also a dancer, and also Charles’s girlfriend. 

Of these linked stories, Potluck and Apartment were the mostly emotionally satisfying, with Apartment acting in a similar way to a sort of breakaway chapter in Real Life, where we find out significantly more about Lionel’s (and Wallace’s in Real Life) background, and some of the echoes in his current character. 

As Though That Were Love tells of the relationship between a farmer and his older, on-again, off-again lover. The failures to communicate between the two, as well as the exquisite details that Taylor brings into their life, make this a story that should live on for quite some time.
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Filthy Animals is erotic without being sexy. It is troubling without being sad. It dares us to engage with uncouth realities.
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Filthy Animals is an episodic short story collection. I would best describe it as a novella braided with interludes from the lives of new characters grappling with similar questions of religiosity, corporealism, violence, and pleasure. It’s as if the main narrator, Lionel, sends out bat signals to the universe and in answer, God frowns down a torrent of contrarions. Lionel asks, “what is survival and what is brave?” Similar to what Carmen Maria Machado did with In the Dream House, Taylor lets his queer characters shimmer with humanity. They are breaking down, inconvenient, vague and violent.
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Just like with Real Life, I slipped into this one and didn’t dare let myself out. I slowed my breath in each story to keep the scene. The collection is surprising because the episodes don’t follow a traditional narrative structure - no rising action or climax. It is just tense as f*ck the whole time. Brandon Taylor’s strength is in building characters so complete that even after one page of knowing them, you can say “well of course Charles would do X and Sophie would like Y.”
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Most heralding was the exploration of relationship with our own bodies - in Filthy Animals, bodies are bending and snapping in an instant or deteriorating over time. Buzzing with pain years after self harm, or numb in the moment a skull shatters. Who causes all this? As we learn: “There was some other god...for whom the spilling of blood was a prayer, an act of devotion. And they’ve been praying to that god their whole lives.” In short, read this if you don’t mind dipping your feet into deep, murky waters.
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*I was sent a free ARC of this book by Riverhead Books in exchange for an honest review*

“Filthy Animals” is a collection of intertwined short stories that center on a group of queer dancers in the midwest. At the core of these dark, gritty stories, is the exploration of the ways that the body informs our identities and the power - or lack thereof - to gain control of those narratives. 

While certainly competent, I found this a bit disappointing. I had very high expectations given many of the accolades I’ve seen this collection receiving. I really enjoyed about half of the stories, but I found the other half repetitive and sometimes boring. The characters were the big hangup for me - many were sympathetic figures but not compelling figureheads for their stories. I actually found the stories featuring the more tertiary characters much more interested than the ones that followed the main cast. They often felt so emotionally distant on the page that I had a hard time rousing enough interest to stick around until the end to see if they would connect or not. 

Overall, this was a passably enjoyable read, and I would be interested to see what else Taylor writes, but I’m not rushing to recommend this one.
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The deal: A collection of interconnected short stories by Brandon Taylor, author of the widely acclaimed 2020 novel, Real Life. (Sidenote: I received an ARC from Netgalley.)

Is it worth it?: You already know. Taylor is exceptionally talented and if queer, quietly devastating stories are your vibe, this is 100 percent for you. My only qualm is that the narrative overlap leaves some stories feeling a bit too similar; they all sort of start to moosh together at a certain point. To me, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but it may be to you. In short, I’d say pre-order this shite post-haste, or at the least, get on your library’s hold list now.

Pairs well with: a lazy walk around Madison, Wisconsin

B+
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I loved it. I was surprised when I read it. It wasn’t what I expected. It was so disarming too, and the vivid, almost grotesque descriptions of body were rendered with such gentle ferocity. Idk if that’s an oxymoron; that’s how I feel. 10/10 will be recommending it.
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Readers of Taylor's "Real Life" will not be surprised to find that his short fiction is as insightful and incisive about human behavior as his longer form work.
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"Filthy Animals" may have some points to make about how awkward and estranged people are.  Nevertheless, as a who.e, it was a rather unsatisfactory, dull collection.  Cannot recommend.
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Pretty good overall. It's a but gutsy to write a set of  linked stories, since it can be difficult to pull off effectively. This worked. He certainly has writing chops. Recommended for literary fiction fans.

I really appreciate the ARC for review!!
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Brandon Taylor is an extraordinarily talented writer whose crisp, sharp prose demands re-reading. This is a more than worthy follow-up to Real Life, with the same melancholy tone throughout, and I'll be thinking about the characters introduced here for a long time.
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Thanks to Netgalley and Riverhead for the ebook. Real Life was a great treat last year, so it’s wonderful to get a book of short stories as a follow up. Lionel has just come out of the hospital and is trying to survive this time when his college career is in a form of limbo when he goes to a potluck party and falls into an uneasy alliance with a couple who are studying dance. Charles, who Lionel quickly falls into bed with, and Sophie, the more talented dancer, but the one who seems more reckless off the stage. Every other story in this collection follows this very sexual and tense filled three some. The rest of the stories range all over, from a young woman going on her first date with another woman to group of young boys at a party in the woods who push their aggressions in every direction, including sexually and even to shocking violence. This is a smart collection that will keep you mesmerized until the next novel is published.
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Brandon Taylor has been on everyone's radar since his Booker nominated Real Life--and for good reason. Taylor's prose translates perfectly to the short story form and you can tell he's experienced and confident in the form. 

Taylor's collection explores detached, intimate, and complicated love against the backdrop of a campus story. This has the same observational and introspective that captured everyone in Real Life. Taylor's fans will love this and it hits all the right spots: academia, miscommunication, and slow burn stories. There is quiet tension, overpowering anxiety, and incredibly vulnerable moments. Taylor does veer into detailed descriptions of landscape which doesn't do much for the atmosphere and, instead, feels more like a flex of a writing exercise. However, I loved every second of it. His writing is so focused, sharp, and strong that I look forward to his indulgent writing spots. 

I loved this and can't wait to get it in the hands of readers at my library!
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Brandon Taylor gives us a collection of short stories that share some subtle and more explicit similarities with his debut hit, Real Life. In a somewhat unique arrangement for a short story collection, this book breaks up several short stories following the same characters by interspersing other short stories in between this storyline. It's different, but it works well as Taylor makes even seemingly mundane interactions interactions in relationships interesting, just as he did in his debut. As someone who comes from academia, I also enjoy how Taylor uses that setting both in Real Life and again in the main storyline in this collection. This storyline is the most captivating and the thread that unexpectedly ties the others together in a very strong collection that continues Taylor's literary rise.
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Bradon Taylor knocks it out of the park with his collection short stories. I was intrigued, I wanted more, and he left enough space to find myself relating to so many of the stories, even when the characters were so different from me. The craft infused in each of his sentences is undeniable. I was enriched by his words and I am so thankful to him for that. Highly recommend everyone go and buy this as soon as it's out.
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A beautifully written, somber collection of stories.  Taylor's writing is impeccable and engrossing and I'm so, so glad his voice is published and being rightfully celebrated.
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Incredible. Taylor is cemented as one of my favorite authors. He writes fraught relationships so well, wether romantic, familial or platonic. I feel like his prose is the perfect amount of removed and observational while still feeling intimate and accessing the interiority of his characters. My favorite of the collection is the on the book is named for, Filthy Animals. So heartbreaking and raw.
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Special thanks to Penguin Group Books and NetGalley for the ARC of this short story book, if you know me it's one of my favorite genres.

Filthy Animals was an unexpected book I came across and I'm so glad that I did. Some of the stories connect with others which was clever. These books are about intimacy, restraint, and cruelty etc. I think my favorite story was the 2nd story of the book about a babysitter, who watches twins, small, not sure of the age, but little enough. The twins are a boy and girl, the boy speaks with what he wants in just one word, the girl, a little smarter, speaks in sentences. The babysitter called them beasts because the little girl plays in dogshit, and needs two baths in one day because unbeknownst to her parents, she also has a dirt pile in her closet with worms (grubs) and twigs and the bugs get all tangled in her hair, while she should be napping, not playing in her closet. . Sound like a babysitter's nightmare. But who's the real nightmare or beast in this story? Because the babysitter, seemingly qualified as she's cutting potatoes and baking French fries from scratch (with cinnamon and salt, I've never heard of cinnamon on French fries but still I love homemade hot fries, Anyway sounds interesting), is definitely a beast herself. I would say she gets her jollies from treating them horrible,, but I'm not sure the things she does even gives her satisfaction. The things she does to the kids is downright beastly. The girl who is smarter notices there is something not right about how the babysitter physically HURTS them, while seemingly caring for their needs, but the boy is oblivious. I don't want to give away the story altogether, but I will stop there. It's just my kind of sick story haha. And I love kids. Go figure.

Most all of the stories were good, if not interesting.

Anyway, I liked all the stories. It's always easy to tell when you read EVERY story in a short story book, that it's a good one! 4 stars and I'd love to read the author Brandon Taylor's book from 2020, titled Real Life, I believe.
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I loved REAL LIFE but really think Taylor has compiled his best writing in FILTHY ANIMALS: crisp, incisive prose that makes me feel profoundly alone, like an outsider who is also hypersensitive to the awkwardness in social interactions. There is deep, hidden pain and stark vulnerability in these stories. Why are people so casually cruel to one another? Does it matter since we're all in pain, all messed up in our own ways? How much value does a small gesture of kindness hold? 

I initially balked at the length of the collection (it showed up as 500+ pages on my iPad), but the writing here is so immersive and addictive in a way that made the pages fly for me. I blinked and was 100 pages in, then 300, then finished. I have several highlighted passages saved on my phone that I can't wait to share once the book is published. 

Massive thank you to Riverhead and NetGalley.
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I'm not usually drawn to short stories and unfortunately despite Brandon Taylor's keen writing of social interaction, I felt the same here. Filthy Animals is a collection of eleven short stories, every other one relating to one central story/plotline, and the others interspersed demonstrating the sort of melancholic social reflection that he demonstrated so well in Real Life. It often took me time to feel pulled into the story and characters, and by the time I did so the story ended abruptly. Pulling out of the "main" storyline also disengaged me further, and while Taylor writes the social anxiety of the university story exceptionally well, I felt like I was reading an earlier draft of Real Life sometimes and vastly preferred his novel. I still enjoy reading Taylor's prose and think he is a wonderful writer especially in depicting moments of fraught intimacy, but the structure of this book didn't connect with me.

Thanks to Riverhead for providing me an ARC through NetGalley.
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This was an impressive short story collection from the author of the Booker prize-nominated Real Life. It’s clear that many of the same themes from his novel were still preoccupying Taylor as he was writing these stories, and while I wasn’t uninterested in those themes, I was hoping to see him try something new. However, each story here was thoughtful and well-written, and I was also interested by the way the collection was organized with every other story focusing on the same group of graduate students. I look forward to reading Taylor’s next work!
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I thought alot about structure while reading FILTHY ANIMALS by Brandon Taylor--the intention in unfurling the interconnected stories in this every-other-story pace rather than releasing the narrative as a stand alone novella. There was an urgency I felt while in-between reading Charles and Lionel. Their initial awkward dialogue doesn't really disappear as their connectivity loosens and then keeps re-tightening. There's a sense that their ability to open to each other is tempered by factors orbiting in their own separate lives, teasing out themes around vulnerability really beautifully.

The opening story captured more than just the fumblings of dinner party conversation, the unfiltered responses and small talk in this case layered with sexual tensions and careless language that tapped into recent mental health struggles. The stories that follow read as stand alone reflections, deep character studies that mined the complexities of desire and vulnerability, and this unquenchable thirst for both amidst what are mostly unforgiving circumstances. The use of structure to give the reader that intentional time away from Charles and Sophie and Lionel was aided by the myriad ways these themes made me reflect when we did return to this central narrative. One story that particularly stood out for this was ANNE OF CLEEVES, Marta particularly stirred so much reflection on the ways the world around us shapes our vulnerabilities, and our unconscious biases. The way these bleed into our psyche and taunt our ability to seek desire or allow ourselves to be vulnerable. The story is such a masterclass in writing tension and character depth within the short story form, it was exquisite!

For me the prose was at its peak in moments of small intimacies, whether it be the brush of hands under a blanket or the ways lips touched a coffee cup, and the electric way that Taylor wrote tension. By the same measure, there was a deftness to the way he wrote the feel of inconsequentialness in moments (usually sexual) of intense intimacy--there is an "act" in ANNE OF CLEEVES compared to shuffling along a chair for a stranger in a doctor's waiting room (oof!). The ways these were juxtaposed was striking and subtle at once, and has made some stories more than others stand out in my memory.


Many thanks to Riverhead/Netgalley for a review copy.



4.5 ⭐️
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